The 2000 Sydney Olympics will always be remembered for Cathy Freeman’s 400m gold medal, and visiting the stadium stirs up all sorts of emotions beyond the aesthetic or technical. Arrival at a stadium is always shocking, even if the rituals housed there are announced on the skyline as the ‘other’ to our workaday lives. Most stadia are colossal beasts that disrupt their host cities – the Colosseum was, well, colossal. This juxtaposition is what gives them their sense of drama – indeed their architectural presence symbolises the invasion of the natural world into city life and has its analogues in sacrifice, festival, theatre, territorial conflicts and thus in sport. Driving past the lurking shadowy gargoyles of Dublin’s Croke Park in the early morning sunlight on match day is a powerfully
affecting experience, and watching a match in Cardiff ’s Millennium Stadium makes you feel like you are at the centre of national life. Joseph Rykwert reminds us in The Seduction of Place of the twin role of architecture to symbolise public life as well as to accommodate it. Design of a national athletics stadium may need to be carefully calibrated in functionalistic terms that concern Health and Safety matters and sight lines; but beyond the basic erection of some seating and the laying out of a ‘fast track’ in the hope that some records might be broken – all matters that a surveyor or engineer is qualified to undertake – where is the architecture in HOK and Cook’s project?